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Skinner Hardcover – July 9, 2013


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*Starred Review* This tour de force features two of the most interesting characters we’ve seen in years. Skinner, a savant-like killer who struggles to interpret emotions and to speak with normal affect, spent his formative years as part of a bizarre experiment—an origin story that unfolds piece by broken piece, each one with fascinating complications. His job is to protect Jae, a damaged, emotionally fragile robotics expert and data analyst with an amazing capacity to sift meaning from massive streams of information. She’s supposed to find the source of an attack on the U.S. power grid. But the motives of the people who’ve hired them are maddeningly elusive, and, as the job leads them through Europe toward an unlikely plot in a Mumbai slum, they have to wonder whether they’re pawns in one of the most circuitous bait-and-switches of all time. Huston’s world, where powerful private security firms battle each other for access to the “new markets” created by global chaos, is cynical, chilling, and eminently believable. The plot itself may be a bit of a stretch, but this is mind-bendingly original, from the characters, to the dialogue, to the sensory-overloaded world that feels eerily like the one we’re about to live in. Add Huston (Sleepless, 2010) to the A-list. --Keir Graff

Review

"A thriller for the Edward Snowden Summer . . . Mr. Huston is renowned for making the fantastic believable."—Wall Street Journal

"Skinner is of the moment. . . . While Skinner has its share of bone-crunching fight scenes, Huston channeled [his] anger into a book with a highly complex picture of how people live at opposite ends of the economic spectrum."—Los Angeles Times

"Its fluency with both the world of spies and of high technology, like Olen Steinhauer by way of William Gibson, makes it a gripping read, [and] the humanity Skinner finds in himself is genuinely touching."—USA Today

"Fun and inventive . . . An espionage thriller for the information age with echoes of John Le Carre and William Gibson."—CNN.com

"Skinner is an up-to-the-second thriller, combining big ideas, gouts of blood and a fascinating mix of damaged characters."—Cleveland Plain Dealer
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books; 1 edition (July 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316133728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316133722
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Charlie Huston is the author of the bestsellers The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death and The Shotgun Rule, as well as the Henry Thompson trilogy, the Joe Pitt casebooks, and several titles for Marvel Comics. He lives with his family in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Some of the book just drags .
Jeffery R
Each character has a distinct voice and all are essential.
David Allen
Good use of current tech. that's out there.
gary e smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By CT on July 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'd agree this plot could have come from the likes of Le Carre and Stephenson. I'd add Bacigalupi and William Gibson to the mix. This is a definite change from Huston's other books in theme and characters. There is more philosophizing, which makes it slow down in parts, but never to the point that you want to skip a single word. Plus there's always awesome action on its way. The real treat is the relationship between Skinner and Jae, two disturbed folks you can almost totally mostly kinda emphathize with.

I highly recommended this eco-, techno-, and psycho-thriller.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B Langlois on July 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
'Skinner', is about a renegade national-security contractor--an off-the-rails intelligence operative. Who, was raised inside a Skinner box. That is, he gets his name, from having been raised for the first 12 years of his life inside a Skinner box-an experimental chamber. His parents, you see, were overzealous scientists. Kept him in their basement. Housed him, in early isolation. It has made him particularly suited to the trade, of killing. Skinner is an asset protector, a high-end, international bodyguard. His methods, could be described, as 'old school'. Unstoppable. He isn't, typically, messed with. So. Cyberterrorists disable a U.S. power station, and this is an ornate, and evolving, cyber-terrorist attack, hushed up as an accident. Skinner is forced back into the game, to protect a beautiful technophile, while she hunts down the perpetrators. And, we get a high-tech trans-global spy-thriller. So, you have your emotionally stunted ruthless lonely boy hit man, with a tough guy name, who is a train wreck, and, while relatively stoic, falls in love. And, you have your brilliant data analyst with a fondness for peyote, did I mention that she is an attractive woman, who..well, in brief, who is very troubled. Damaged. Emotionally fragile. And, they race around the world out of need to save mankind. This is a treacherous mission (fraught with violence--for one thing). There is real-world tech, here, while also, this computer genius roboticist asset has wild stuff, and a gift for techno-philosophy, and seeing the, well, shall we say, seeing the underlying systems. And, the storm clouds gather, and the plot unfolds.

And, I loved it. Tour de force.

I'm pretty much rabid, I've read all of Charlie Huston's books; this is #12.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Roat on July 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Disjointed. That is the best word I can find to describe this book. While I've enjoyed all of Charlie Huston's previous books, I found myself slogging through this one, struggling to keep myself interested.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Steven C. Hull on August 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The publisher hyped this book as a combination of le Carre and Stephenson. It certainly isn't le Carre. While le Carre, at least in his prime, wrote about good people sliding into moral ambiguity in pursuit of bad people, Huston writes a screed against all the things that he hates (he says in an interview in the L.A.Times), but laced with everything that could possibly become a script for a Van Damm action movie.

Skinner is an amoral bodyguard who will exact revenge on anyone touching his protected asset, in this case Jae, a female cyber-tech genius who wants to save America and the poor masses of Mumbai. Skinner slashes throats, machineguns ten attackers at a time and cuts out eyeballs but lets them hang from their sockets as a warning.

Like an extremist politician, Huston wants to scream at and violently destroy everything he hates, and, oh, lets cover everything currently in the news and include everything that could get a movie option for Skinner. Hate businesses, check. Foreign cyber-attack on American electrical grid, check. Brilliant flash-mob organizers trying to save western civilization by destroying international meetings of big, bad governments, check. Amoral bodyguard falls for female cyber-tech genius, check. Eye-ball cut out, check. Corrupt third-world country, check. Potential nuclear attack by rogue terrorists, check. Sex, check.

The novel reads as if Huston knocked this out in ten days to meet the publishers deadline. Even Huston admitted in an interview that he started out just venting his spleen.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Susan Kuchinskas on July 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Missing the poetry, the development of the characters, the surprising created world. This is not a bad read but it lacks the depth of Sleepless. It feels like Huston tried to follow the same format and plot, but maybe didn't try as hard. In Sleepless, he used pop culture and social themes as the basis for creating a world on which he layered characters and plots. In Skinner, he seems to name-check a lot of memes (including "meme") without doing much with them. Maybe the story pitch was Behind the Beautiful Forevers meets Manufactured Landscapes meets Twitter, but it didn't work for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joseph P. Menta, Jr. VINE VOICE on February 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I don't know-- some books I don't like because I genuinely think they're poorly written. Other books I don't like because I simply believe they're not my cup of tea. "Skinner" is probably an example of the latter. There's a lot of undeniable craft, and many interesting ideas, here. I just found this story- about a gun for hire who protects his "assets" (his clients) at any cost, and some kind of cyber-terrorism plot that draws all the characters into its orbit- to be dull and hard to follow. Maybe it's because everything is couched in intellectual jargon, philosophical observations, and nightly-news name dropping. But, again, maybe it's me. I'm usually fine with introspective characters and compelling ideas presented to us outside of the main plot's overall momentum (Michael Crichton did that all the time), but here I was just bored most of the time. Hey, try this book out and see what you think. Maybe you won't experience the "when will this end?" vibe I did.
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